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Fighting the pirates of Bollywood

And, no, not the swashbuckling kind.

When police in Bangalore, Baroda or Bareilly raid pirates’ dens or crack down on the networks, they often find newer formats like mobile chips and memory cards.

“Those who pirate the movies have no stake whatsoever in the Bollywood food chain,” said Bardhan of PVR. Everybody is losing money to piracy — the producers, exhibitors, the industry, the government. Bollywood could have made better movies, and make them more affordable if it can plug piracy, said Bardhan.

Those arrested in the crackdowns are usually small fry in the piracy chain who invariably get out on bail. Bardhan says only stringent laws can bring piracy to a halt.

The stakes are, indeed, huge. India’s entertainment industry is expected to grow at an average of 11 percent over the next five years and reach $14 billion in size, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The U.S.-India Business Council says the media and entertainment industry can expect to grow an extra $5 billion a year if piracy is controlled.

But that won't be easy. Already, a rought cut of a Bollywood film due to release in the cinemas this summer — "Tera Kya Hoga Johnny" (what’s going to happen to you, Johnny?) — has showed up on YouTube, enraging its director Sudhir Misra.

Piracy is so rampant and the efforts so far to curb it have been so feeble that it is an exercise in futility, said Bollywood trade expert Adarsh. “So far, Bollywood and Hollywood have not taken this seriously and the industry is to blame,” he said.

Adarsh has another warning: unless producers in Hollywood and Bollywood come together for a long fight — and stick with it — this will be a battle tilted in favor of the pirates.